Sydney Evan Jones

AAE position: Medical officer

In their own words

There was a very marked absence of serious illness during the whole period of our stay at the Base.

— From the Western Base Medical Report, in Home of the Blizzard

Evan Jones was born in Adelaide in 1887, but moved to Queensland with his family, where he attended Ipswich Grammar School. Jones studied medicine at the University of Sydney, graduating in 1910. After a year as resident medical officer at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, with fellow-graduate Archie McLean he applied to join Mawson’s AAE. Both were successful.

While medical care was his first AAE priority, Jones took part in several sledging journeys. He led the party which explored along the coast to the west, reaching Gaussberg, where the German expedition under Erich von Drygalski had made landfall a decade earlier.

On his return from Antarctica, Jones joined the New South Wales government mental hospitals branch, serving at Parramatta, Rydalmere and Callan Park mental hospitals. In 1921 he took up an appointment at Broughton Hall, which after having served as a hospital for returned soldiers was re-opening as a voluntary admission mental health clinic. For 12 months Jones was its only doctor. He became its superintendent in 1925, a position he was to hold for 23 years.

One of the first Australian practitioners of psychotherapy, Jones was a true pioneer in the treatment of mental illness, and the 130-bed Broughton Hall was his instrument. It treated patients who had previously avoided treatment because of the stigma of certification, and for 10 years this made Broughton Hall technically illegal under the Lunacy Act, which prohibited expenditure of public money on such patients. Broughton Hall filtered people who could benefit from various new ‘occupational therapies’ from those needing longer-term help.

Plants and animals figured prominently in Jones’s treatments. He revived a mid-19th century practice by creating in Broughton Hall’s grounds a garden and a zoo containing kangaroos, emus, peacocks, cockatoos and parrots. The Kangaroo House, the last trace of the zoo, was demolished in 1972.

The establishment of a chair in psychiatry at the University of Sydney at the same time as Jones’s appointment to Broughton Hall allowed the institution to take on undergraduate students, making a generation of Australian psychiatrists aware of Jones’s work. Broughton Hall became Australia’s largest facility for treating voluntary patients. In 1963 (15 years after his death), Jones’s contribution to psychiatry was recognised in Broughton Hall’s new Evan Jones Lecture Theatre.

Jones, who led the neurology and psychiatry section of the British Medical Association (NSW branch), was a foundation member of the Australasian Association of Psychiatrists.

Evan Jones remained superintendent of Broughton Hall until his death, from cancer, in 1948.